Keita “Fuudo” Ai has a bittersweet history in Street Fighter V. When it has come to the biggest titles in the game — Evolution and Capcom Cup — he is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. He finished second to Infiltration at Evo 2016, then finished fifth at Capcom Cup 2016. He has come so close to taking it all — but hasn’t.
2017 has proven the same. The Evo 2011 champion of Street Fighter IV has all the chances in the world to take it all again. The question becomes: will he?
True Muscle Spirit
When you look at GRPT|Fuudo’s play in 2017, not much has changed. This is a good thing, though — as his R. Mika is just as deadly as last year.
While I commented last year that his Mika was one of the most in-depth characters in terms of setups, many of those became nullified at the end of the season when her wall bounce on Irish Whip midscreen was removed. Fuudo just simply took it upon himself to recreate the character with a whole new style, and the result is an equally deep character that removes all doubt that even her nerfs didn’t change her position in the tiers.
One of the biggest adjustments he made was within the footsies game. This is something that isn’t talked about much with R. Mika players, but is so vital to their play — especially in Season 2. Your setups only get you so far with this character, and one of the biggest problems on getting those setups going is that everyone expects the usual approaches of dropkicks, splashes, and crouching fierces. This is what sets Fuudo apart, is the fact that he has taken a page out of his old, stable Fei Long play book from Street Fighter IV and injected it into Street Fighter V.
Fuudo controls every bit of space on the screen well. However, once he gets you to the corner—and he will—it’s light’s out. He’s a player that makes so many strong players hit the panic button in that corner, and one of only a handful that does it so masterfully. While some of that should be attributed to the strength of the character, it’s Fuudo’s understanding of every pixel of space that makes him a constant threat.
Still Not the Bride
The problem I find myself always having with Fuudo is that he simply cannot close it out. If you look at his results at Capcom Pro Tour events this season, you’ll find that he’s the highest-ranked player that hasn’t won a single event. In 2017, the only event he has won was a non-CPT event at the RAGE series.
He has thrice had chances to close out premier events in 2017. He was poised to take Final Round XX, only to be put on blast by Xian’s newly-found Ibuki. He was later in a good spot to take Japan Cup, to be defeated by Haitani. He was also on a path to success at Dueling Dragons Dojo, only to be thwarted by yet another Ibuki in Yukadon.
If you look away from the CPT, he was also close to a championship at Brooklyn Beatdown, only to lose to a dominating performance by Tokido. Haitani notwithstanding, Fuudo has struggled against characters with solid mix-up games. Tokido has shown the capacity to work Akuma into that realm, and Yukadon and Xian have that kind of game by default with Ibuki. While Mika can mix up strongly as well, in match-ups such as against Ibuki and Akuma, she has a much harder time setting this up given the fact that the former characters have a strong zoning game to complement their mix-up potential.
The Road There
Let’s just look at the tape here. Fuudo has a hard road. He has to play a gamble-heavy character in MenaRD’s Birdie right out of the gate. While this match doesn’t necessarily favor Birdie — and Fuudo eliminated Mena 3-1 at Brooklyn Beatdown this year — on can only imagine how much focus the Dominican will be placing on Fuudo as he prepares for the opening round of Capcom Cup.
But let’s just say — in both theory and practice — Fuudo beats everyone he has to face in the lower half of the bracket. At some point, he will have to shift to play the upper half of the seeding. Just based off of the above problematic players, Fuudo is likely going to struggle in the latter phases of the event more than anyone else.
Never say never, but the likelihood of Fuudo taking down — based off his results this season and his performances against players who are netting better results than he is — looks grim. He could easily make top 8; his performance at Brooklyn Beatdown proves this emphatically. The worry then becomes if he has the chutzpah to make a run to the trophy. If he hasn’t yet this year, I find it hard to believe he will in Anaheim.
Check out our prior articles in the Capcom Cup 2017 Player Analysis series!